One way your body offers information to you is through pain response. It’s not a terribly enjoyable approach but it can be beneficial. When your ears begin to feel the pain of a really loud megaphone next to you, you know damage is taking place and you can take steps to move further away or at least cover your ears.
But for around 8-10% of individuals, quiet sounds can be detected as painfully loud, in spite of their measured decibel level. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. There’s no cure for hyperacusis, but there are treatments that can help you get a handle on your symptoms.
Heightened sound sensitivity
Hypersensitivity to sound is known as hyperacusis. The majority of individuals with hyperacusis have episodes that are activated by a certain group of sounds (typically sounds within a frequency range). Quiet noises will frequently sound really loud. And loud noises seem even louder.
No one’s quite certain what causes hyperacusis, although it is often related to tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some instances, neurological concerns). With regards to symptoms, intensity, and treatment, there’s a significant degree of individual variability.
What’s a typical hyperacusis response?
In most instances, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- You will hear a specific sound, a sound that everyone else perceives as quiet, and that sound will seem exceptionally loud to you.
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You might experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You might also experience dizziness and problems keeping your balance.
Hyperacusis treatment treatment
When your hyperacusis makes you vulnerable to a wide variety of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a pleasant night out will suddenly turn into an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why it’s so important to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and talk with us about which treatments will be your best option (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
A device known as a masking device is one of the most common treatments for hyperacusis. While it may sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out specific wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, are able to selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever reach your ear. If you can’t hear the offending sound, you won’t have a hyperacusis episode.
A less sophisticated strategy to this basic method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis event if you can’t hear… well, anything. There are undoubtedly some disadvantages to this low tech strategy. There’s some evidence to suggest that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. Consult us if you’re considering using earplugs.
An approach, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional counseling to try to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds. Training yourself to ignore sounds is the basic idea. This process depends on your dedication but generally has a positive rate of success.
Strategies that are less prevalent
Less prevalent strategies, like ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. These strategies are less commonly used, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed success.
Treatment makes a huge difference
Because hyperacusis tends to vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you experience them. There’s no one best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.